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2011, Nov 20
Follow up to Canon New Cosmos

I went back to Syabi, to take a look at the New Cosmos of Photography exhibition once again. Each of the 5 finalists got some wall space, and a place to show their portfolio, but all of the other 20 people who received honorable mention also had some space to show like one print, and a portfolio. It was interesting to see this work, which really ranged from the terrible to the potentially interesting to the really quite clever. My favorite out of the bunch was Wataru Yamamoto, a student at Tama Art University, who presented a work called “Draw a Line”:

 

The idea behind this work is really pretty simple. He went into the forest, set up his camera and stood some distance away from it with a long cable release, “drawing a line” through the frame. In these photos the line is basically straight, but in others it zigzags through the trees. Turning the pages of this portfolio was extremely enjoyable. On the one hand, you’re kind of playing a game of “Where’s Wataru?” on every page, because he’s often camouflaged quite well. But it’s also interesting to see how the line changes, and to realize that you’re not even bothering to look at the forest. I like this kind of goofy experimentalism, it reminds me of something John Divola might do.

Strangely enough, the winner of the honorable mention section also used the cable release in her photos, but in a much less experimental way. This is the work of Mariko Sakaguchi:

Every photo in this series shows her taking a bath in some scene where no one notices her. This leaves me very, very cold. Taking a bath in front of a busy train station, or in a local convenience store? That would be something, on the Laurel Nakadate tip. It seems like the work is trying very hard to say something, but not really connecting, and leaving the cable in the frame exemplifies this—visually, it doesn’t add anything to the photo, and conceptually it actually makes the photographs weaker. I mean, this tells us that she is controlling exactly when to take the photo, but it’s not like she’s interacting with anyone else; nothing is ever happening around her! Using a timer might have made things more interesting. There was also a photo in her portfolio where she was bathing in front of a house that had been wrecked by the tsunami. Without being sanctimonious, I would like to express some disappointment with that.

Selecting this work as the “best of the rest” may or may not reflect on the competition as a whole. I’m not sure.


							

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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, Mariko Sakaguchi, Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum, Wataru Yamamoto

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2011, Oct 19
Hatakeyama’s Post-3/11 Photos at Syabi

A couple of weeks ago I saw Naoya Hatakeyama’s latest exhibit, “Natural Stories,” at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Photography Museum. Hatakeyama is from Rikuzen-Takada, one of the villages which was devastated by the tsunami this March. I don’t have the time or space here to explain why these photos were so great, but along with ROLLS TOHOKU, they are the only photographs taken of post-3/11 destruction I’ve seen so far which are “good,” strange as it is to use that word here.

With Hatakeyama’s blessing, I took some cell phone shots of the exhibit, but I don’t think it makes any sense to post them here. If you’re in Tokyo, you should go, the exhibit is up through December 4. I think it’s going to travel after that, first to Amsterdam and then maybe eventually San Francisco. I’ll try to keep an eye on the work and see if a book comes out, though I have a feeling that will not happen anytime soon.


							

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3/11 Earthquake, Naoya Hatakeyama, ROLLS TOHOKU, Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum

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2009, Sep 22
A trip to the Tokyo Museum of Photography Library

I went to go check out the “Sentimental Journey” exhibit at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography that’s ending tomorrow. I had walked through once before but it needed another visit, especially with a free ticket burning a hole in my pocket. The show has small selections from 10 photographers’ trips, all within Japan. This time I really enjoyed the photos from Tsuchida Hiromi’s “Zokushin,” where he went into mountain villages and took pictures in and around religious festivals:

Hiromi Tsuchida, Woman with fake flowers, Aoshima, Miyazaki, 1973. from Lensculture

After walking through, I made a trip up to the fourth floor to visit the museum’s library. I don’t have any pictures to show because they run a pretty tight ship, but I can assure you it’s worth stopping by.

First of all, it’s FREE, and you don’t even have to buy a ticket to the museum to drop in. Although you can’t wander through the main stacks, there’s a simple computer catalog (with English) to look for books which the staff will bring out to you in a minute or two. I think they’ll have basically anything you can think of, especially when it comes to Japanese photographers. I ended up checking out a volume of August Sander’s portraits—a really nice book printed in Germany—and Araki’s “Sentimental Journey.”

There are some materials sitting out for browsing, like history books, books relating to the current exhibitions (Tsuchida’s “Zokushin”) and plenty of magazines, including English-language ones like Foam and Aperture. There are a good numbers of tables, chairs and desks. Next time I’m coming back with a list. Obviously this place comes highly recommended—a free way to spend some enjoyable hours in Tokyo? Unheard of!


							

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Hiromi Tsuchida, Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum

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